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  1. DAYoung is offline
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    Crouching Philosopher, Hidden Philosopher

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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 1:50am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    The Virtues of Point Sparring



    Point sparring gets a good flogging on Bullshido. And rightly so. At its worst, it encourages sloppy defence, slappy offence, and clumsiness with combinations. Instead of learning to hit and be hit, point fighters learn how to tag and tap, without force or follow-up.

    Of course, it's possible to learn good fighting and to do this on the side. Perhaps Machida his share of point sparring.

    Nonetheless, it is a poor substitute for so-called 'alive' sparring.

    But if it lacks martial value, does it have other values? I was corresponding with Danno, who emailed me this clip of JKA fighting. The first ridgehand (0:05) is beautiful: swift, crisp, elegant. It's a joy to watch.

    As I've argued elsewhere, MMA also has aesthetic virtues. But there's something particularly beautiful about the 'one strike' character of JKA sparring. It doesn't necessarily help with real-world conflicts, but it is enjoyable to watch. The combination of speed and withdrawal have a clarity to them - something more akin to a fencing strike than to an overhand right (which rightly continues 'through' the opponent).

    To the Bullshido brains trust: What's valuable about point sparring? Am I being unfair to point sparring? Does it, in fact, have martial value?

    And if not martial value, then some other kind? Does it have aesthetic, historical, spiritual, health benefits?
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  2. Hiro Protagonist is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 5:01am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I disagree with you, but on the base that I don't think fighting has an aesthetic value to begin with; then again, I'm not very consistent in my own argumentation:
    Fighting, as the exercise and training of violence, is redundant in a civilized society and should be reserved for those who need to rely on it to enforce law and order... Then again, why am I training?!

    As to the "martial value" of point sparring (as I have experienced it), there is of course a purpose on a technical level, like the training of concrete techniques, working with a reduced or limited set of movements, and so on. But as a discipline for itself, I don't like it.
  3. DAYoung is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 5:40am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    As I've argued elsewhere, I do think violence has benefits - properly channeled. It's not just about subduing criminals, or some such thing.

    On aesthetic qualities, they're definitely there. But convincing someone of beauty is not always possible by argument. I've nodded to them in my columns. If you can't see them, so be it.
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  4. Lv1Sierpinski is online now

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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 5:56am


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quite the loaded question, but I'll throw a few opinions into the public domain...

    My experience comes from perhaps the point-y-ist of point fighting, the ATA ('95~'02, I've missed all the recent developments and have been in Oz so I don't even know what those are, but I'm sure they're out there). My instructor's training however was more based in the karate and kickboxing of the the 70s and 80s, not that our point sparring was more awesome (we followed ATA rules) but other training was often of a more continuous affair so I always had some idea of the alternatives, even if I never actively participated fully at the time.

    I think the virtues of point sparring depend wholly on the context. If we were to completely remove the 'fighting' aspect, then disscusion of virtue could proceed as with any other sport (the aesthetics of a perfect golf swing, mark or touchdown)...you mentioned fencing, and given the diminished use of swords in society at large, I think contextualizing it as a sport for its own sake is appropriate...I however don't feel you can pull point sparring out of fighting to that extent (to do so becomes far more academic that I think we're aiming for, if I read that wrong let me know, I'll go into it then).

    I think point sparring has limited, or perhaps tangential martial value (the exact rule-set and performance conditions dictating how limited...ATA --> very limited; Olympic --> not so bad due to the physical level at which it is trained and competed at). For argument's sake if we discuss martial value as application to MMA applications, 'decent' point sparring might translate a few concepts (angles, timing) but the efficiency of translation is so low it's almost not worth the effort.

    Point sparring can yield excellent results in terms of fitness, which especially in this day and age I would count as a virtue. For a particular cross-section of society I think the level of competition and generally low risk, low barrier to entry nature of the activity can be quite health for people to engage in. I suspect it would apply to few on these forums, but seeing people grow in confidence in themselves through point sparring can be quite uplifting. I think point sparring allows for a unique experience in that department, in a more binary way than say forms or general training, in that the only way to engage in the activity is to compete.

    The issue with point sparring is that it's a fine line. The above confidence can be manipulated easily by an instructor for material gain, or just providing false sense of security or generally not being honest with people. Few would berate a middle aged mother of 3 for not taking MT or Judo...respect from our side of the martial arts community drops when she doesn't have any external context for what she's actually doing, what the benefits are and the hows and whys all that is the case...it's almost universally down to the instructor, hence the objective of this site (well, the serious sides of it anyway).

    All wrapped up in the microcosm of point sparring.

    Oh, and it's fun, you get back in touch with your inner 7 year old and play tag with your friends...and few things are more satisfying than tagging him in the head.

    Edit: I'm with you on the aesthetics, some people spar pretty, and some don't...it's like art, you know it when you see it (but it's a separate issue from sparring dumb, that's pretty much a given if you're comparing point tactics to MMA)
    Last edited by Lv1Sierpinski; 2/10/2011 5:59am at . Reason: Extra thought
  5. DAYoung is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 6:17am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Loaded? Possibly. I thought it balanced, fair.

    Now, to your post. Unfortunately, your reply is thoughtful, informed and articulate. I'm afraid I just have to agree with you, at this point.

    How very, very disappointing.
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  6. MMAMickey is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 7:17am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I see the benefit of closing distance quickly, and delivering a hard strike. However, the majority of point sparring schools don't teach anyone to land with power, somewhat diminishing its 'martial value'.

    In reality, it is little different from common 'outfighter/boxer' ring tactics. I fail to see how jabbing your way to a decision is any different than playing foot tag for points.

    Do I like it? No, but I don't particularly like outfighting in any sport.
    "The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero projects his fear onto his opponent while the coward runs. 'Fear'. It's the same thing, but it's what you do with it that matters". - Cus D'Amato
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  7. Hiro Protagonist is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 8:08am

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    No offense, please, but I think you are committing the mistake of connecting two unrelated things:

    The aesthetic question about martial arts, and the question about a practical exercise.

    As to the practical exercise, I think there is a consensus that it has limited use for special forms of conditioning.

    As to the aesthetic implications, I think you are wrong.
    The traditional Eastern view of martial arts is that the way is the goal in itself, but then, what always escapes me is, any of the things that, according to the philosophers and martial arts gurus,
    can be obtained through "the martial way", can also be won by pacific exercises.

    Inner peace, concentration, balance, whatever - 18th century British philosophers, for example, thought these could be obtained by gardening.

    So, why aren't we all gardeners, then?

    Dispute me, please! :)

    I'd make a fantastic gardener! I know that because I have played "Friends of Mineral Town" four times already!
    Last edited by Hiro Protagonist; 2/10/2011 8:17am at .
  8. Boneless is offline

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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 8:10am


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I think point sparring/fighting is really useful for kids/teens who are affraid of getting hurt,
    or to those who panic just by the mere mention of physical contact.

    these people do wnat to learn MA but not for compition (at first maybe)
    So in my opinion its useful up to a point,but not for realism

    but great for the people mentioned above and to those who just want to have fun
    and enjoy MA and get a workout
  9. MMAMickey is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 8:38am

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiro Protagonist View Post
    No offense, please, but I think you are committing the mistake of connecting two unrelated things:

    The aesthetic question about martial arts, and the question about a practical exercise.

    As to the practical exercise, I think there is a consensus that it has limited use for special forms of conditioning.

    As to the aesthetic implications, I think you are wrong.

    The OP makes two propositions to be considered.
    1. Does point sparring have martial value?
    2. If no, then does it have other value?
    To say they are unrelated suggests a fault of logic or reading comprehension.

    To be able to consider the second proposition, the wording of the OP requires you to consider the first.

    So, rather than simply going with 'the consensus', for which you have cited nothing btw, come to your own conclusion, and give us the benefit of your powers of reasoning.
    "The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero projects his fear onto his opponent while the coward runs. 'Fear'. It's the same thing, but it's what you do with it that matters". - Cus D'Amato
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  10. MMAMickey is offline
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    Posted On:
    2/10/2011 8:41am

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boneless View Post
    I think point sparring/fighting is really useful for kids/teens who are affraid of getting hurt,
    or to those who panic just by the mere mention of physical contact.

    these people do wnat to learn MA but not for compition (at first maybe)
    So in my opinion its useful up to a point,but not for realism

    but great for the people mentioned above and to those who just want to have fun
    and enjoy MA and get a workout
    What is the difference between point fighting in TMA and point fighting in say, a boxing or muay thai match?

    Bearing in mind also that some TKD comps allow full contact kicking, and yet are still viewed as inferior to a ruleset that allows only full contact punching (boxing)
    "The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero projects his fear onto his opponent while the coward runs. 'Fear'. It's the same thing, but it's what you do with it that matters". - Cus D'Amato
    Spoiler:

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